- Associated Press - Monday, August 21, 2017

SWAMPSCOTT, Mass. (AP) - The owner of a Puritan Road property has proposed demolition of the site’s existing structures to make room for the construction of 16 condominiums or apartments, with an affordable housing component.

Robert Corcoran, the owner of 133 Puritan Road, acquired the 1.06 acre property in August 2014 for $1.785 million, according to land records. The property is assessed at $2.943 million.

The property was built in 1914 and is located at the intersection of Puritan Road and Lincoln House Avenue. It includes a large home/mansion, carriage house with residential space inside, tennis court and pool. It abuts the Swampscott Harbor and includes a seawall, according to Peter Kane, director of community development.

Corcoran, whose company is listed as Boberin LLC, recently submitted a comprehensive permit site approval application to the Massachusetts Housing Finance Agency (MassHousing), which town officials said they received a copy of a little more than a week ago. The application proposes a Chapter 40B housing project.

When reached by phone, Corcoran said he had no comment on the proposed development.



Under the proposal, existing buildings on the site would be cleared to allow for new construction, which would include three 4-story structures that would house 16 units of residential space spread over the buildings. Four of those residential units would be set aside as affordable housing units, Kane said.

Kane said the first floor of all three buildings would be garage space, due to the fact that the property is right on the water and is located within a flood zone. The top three floors of each building would be the living space for all three buildings.

A brief project description provided by the developer in his application shows that each building would contain five or six units each. Fourteen of the units are three bedrooms, with the remaining two units providing two bedrooms. Sizes of the living space range from 1,400 to 2,900 square feet. There would be 37 parking spaces - four of which would be uncovered and the rest would be located in garages.

Kane said the developer has submitted an application to MassHousing, which has asked the Board of Selectmen for some comments on the proposed project. Kane gave a presentation on the proposed development last Wednesday at a Board of Selectmen meeting, and the selectmen asked residents for their input.

“This is not a project that the town has been engaged on,” Kane said. “This is a private development so we’re kind of learning about the project and the project proposal just like the rest of the community is at the same time.”

Even if MassHousing approves that the site is eligible for a 40B project, it does not mean that the project is approved, Kane said. He said it simply means that it is eligible for that process, and is a first step in the process for a 40B project.

The state’s 40B housing program allows developers to override local zoning bylaws to increase the stock of affordable housing in municipalities where less than 10 percent of the homes are defined as affordable. In Swampscott, less than four percent of its housing is considered affordable.

Kane said through 40B, the developer can go through a comprehensive permit process to seek waivers from zoning requirements. Site approval is a required component of any comprehensive permit application to be submitted to the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA), according to the MassHousing application.

“The overwhelming majority of sites that seek site eligibility letters get site eligibility, so just to set expectations here - it’s not perfunctory per se - but this is not the meaty part of the process,” Selectman Peter Spellios said, referring to the subsequent comprehensive permit process with the ZBA.

“This is more of a general review of the site relative to the project,” Spellios continued. “Sixteen units on an acre is not out of whack compared to what the state has seen and the state has approved elsewhere . Even if the town wrote the most damning letter about this project - in my experience, in all likelihood - unless there was something extreme that hasn’t been noticed yet or talked about, DHCD (the Department of Housing and Community Development) most likely will say you can go to the next step.”

Kane said if the ZBA denies a comprehensive permit, it’s quite likely that it gets overturned to be approved.

“This is a tough state law and we’re going to have to really think very carefully,” said Town Administrator Sean Fitzgerald. “We have to be objective right now as we look at all of our options administratively, but 40B has been used by developers in many communities across Massachusetts as a way to exempt local control and permitting.”

Kane said it was important for officials to be clear that 40B is not a bad thing and can be very positive for a community.

“In all honesty, Swampscott does need additional affordable housing,” Kane said. “We’ve identified that in our Housing Production Plan. And it’s just incumbent on us as the Board of Selectmen, staff members and (community) members to determine - is this site appropriate for that type of development and is the scale of the development appropriate as well? I think that we can’t just automatically assume that it’s not appropriate.”

Neighbors to the proposed development who attended last Wednesday’s meeting did not appear to be in favor of the potential project.

One Lincoln House Point resident, who requested that he only be identified as a neighborhood representative, said the neighbors were blindsided by the proposal and have serious concerns about the project.

He said the project will place more vehicles on the roadway than currently exist, which will increase traffic on a very narrow road. He added that the seawall on the property is in serious disrepair, and questioned whether it would support the weight of the project’s structures.

The 30-day deadline date for the town’s response to the MassHousing application is Sept. 6, with a MassHousing site visit scheduled for Tuesday at 10 a.m. The selectmen asked Kane to request an extension on the deadline and to ask that the site visit be pushed off by a week.

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Online: https://bit.ly/2v7KeYr

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Information from: The (Lynn, Mass.) Daily Item, https://itemlive.com

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